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Darwin Correspondence Project

To A. R. Wallace   20 August [1862]

1. Carlton Terrace | Southampton

Aug. 20th

My dear Mr Wallace

You will not be surprised that I have been slow in answering, when I tell you that my poor [boy] became frightfully worse after you were at Down;1 & that during our journey to Bournemouth he had a slight relapse here & my wife took the Scarlet Fever rather severely.2 She is over the crisis. I have had a horrid time of it & God only knows when we shall be all safe at home again. Half my Family are at Bournemouth.—3

I have given a piece of the comb from Timor to a Mr Woodbury,4 (who is working at subject) & he extremely interested by it (I was sure the specimen would be valuable) & has requested me to ascertain whether the Bee (A. testacea) is domesticated & when it makes it combs? Will you kindly inform me?

Your remarks on ostriches have interested me, & I have alluded to case in 3d. Edition.—5 The difficulty does not seem to me so great as to you.— Think of Bustards which inhabit wide open plains, & which so seldom take flight: a very little increase in size of body would make them incapable of flight.— The idea of ostriches acquiring flight is worthy of Westwood;6 think of the food required in these inhabitants of the Desert to work the Pectoral muscles! In the Rhea the wings seem of considerable service in the first start & in turning. The distribution & whole case of these birds is, however, very interesting: considering their apparently real affinities to mammals, I have sometimes speculated whether we do not here get an obscure glimpse of


See letter from A. R. Wallace, 8 August 1862. Wallace’s visit to Down House is not recorded in either Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) or CD’s ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II). However, Wallace later recalled: ‘Soon after I returned home, in the summer of 1862, Mr. Darwin invited me to come to Down for a night, where I had the great pleasure of seeing him in his quiet home, and in the midst of his family’ (Wallace 1905, 2: 1). This visit probably took place in late June or early July 1862: Leonard Darwin became ill with scarlet fever in June (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 13 [June 1862]), and suffered a relapse early in July (see Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), and letter to W. E. Darwin, 9 July [1862]).
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), the Darwins travelled to Southampton on 13 August 1862; she recorded that on the same date, she became ill with scarlet fever.
During the latter part of Leonard’s illness, the other Darwin children had been sent away with their former nurse, Brodie, who was at Down at the time (Emma Darwin (1915) 2: 178; see also letter to W. E. Darwin, 4 [July 1862] and n. 8). The family had planned to be reunited in Southampton, before moving on to Bournemouth for a holiday (see the letter from Emma Darwin to William Erasmus Darwin, [9 August 1862], in DAR 219.1: 61). As a result of Emma Darwin’s illness, however, the children were apparently sent on to Bournemouth, and were joined by the rest of the family on 1 September (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II), and Emma Darwin (1915) 2: 178).
See letter from A. R. Wallace, 8 August 1862. CD’s remarks appear in Origin 3d ed., pp. 151–2.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Emma Darwin (1915): Emma Darwin: a century of family letters, 1792–1896. Edited by Henrietta Litchfield. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1915.

Origin 3d ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 3d edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1861.

Wallace, Alfred Russel. 1905. My life: a record of events and opinions. 2 vols. London: Chapman & Hall.


Family illnesses.

On disposition of wild honeycomb gift.

Discounts the difficulty presented by ostrich wings.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent from
Source of text
The British Library (Add MS 46434: 28)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3689,” accessed on 25 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10